Cooking with wine

Pair the key flavours of wine and food when using wine as a cooking ingredient.

Pair the key flavours of wine and food when using wine as a cooking ingredient. - Credit: Archant

If you enjoy a glass of wine with your meal why not use it in cooking too? The myriad flavours in the wines available to us from around the world provide an opportunity to add nuances of taste to our meals as a flavour-adding ingredient.

It's important to remember that while cooking with wine is a great way to use up open bottles, it shouldn't be used to get rid of unwanted wines that have been open for ages as the off flavours will be transferred to the food and they become much more noticeable once heated. Also, wine loses its distinctive characteristics once added to food so using a top quality wine isn't recommended!

There are a few rules of thumb for cooking with wine. As you can imagine creamy sauces will require a soft rounded style of wine such as a New World unoaked Chardonnay. Its pure fruit flavour will enhance those of the sauce as would a similar wine from the South of France. If you added a zingy Sauvignon Blanc with high acidity the key flavours of the food and wine would fight each other.

Fortified wines should be added at the end of the recipe such as when adding a dash of sherry to soup; try a fino, palo cortado or dry amontillado in spinach or courgette soup or the Oloroso seco in a vegetable broth.

Marinating in wine before cooking will tenderise and add an intrinsic flavour to meat and fish. Try leaving braising steak in an everyday New World Cabernet or Chilean Carmenere or Shiraz Cabernet from Australia for a few hours before casseroling with a little more of the same wine. Matching a wine to drink with it is then very easy as that wine or another more expensive version will be a perfect complement.

There are some obvious wines to use in Italian dishes as that country's wines are a great match for dishes using tomatoes and garlic as the native grape varieties use din Chianti such as the Sangiovese or the Nero d'Avola in Sicily, which have much fruit and fresh acidity to easily complement these flavours in many dishes. Italian wines are a great match to salami as the freshness and natural acidity of both red and white wines cut through the fat and salt of these meats.

In chicken dishes where wine is a key ingredient in a marinade forming the basis of a sauce then a white wine of your choice with inherently fresh but not concentrated flavours will be ideal. Try a Touraine Sauvignon from the Loire Valley or a traditional Italian Pecorino or Sicilian Catarratto with light lemony overtones.

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Shiraz or Grenache-based red wine sauces are great for robustly flavoured red wines though if you want to be traditional then a French Pinot Noir is the wine for Boeuf Bourguignon. However, the wine for cooking doesn't have to break the bank - try the Les Volets Pinot Noir from the South of France, it's great to drink with it too. If it's a special meal then a wine from the same grape from Burgundy or New Zealand will be a treat!

There is no right or wrong to food or wine matching as long as the basic rule of thumb of pairing the key flavours of the wine and food is adhered to. More importantly it should br fun experimenting so why not give it a go?